A Brief History of "First" Israel AME Church
Founded in 1828, Israel AME Church has served the Albany, New York
African-American community through spiritual, religious, community and educational programs and projects
for over 175 years. Israel AME Church opens its doors to promote its
Christian beliefs through church and community service.
Richard Allen, founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal
Church embraced the Methodist denomination with its precise ways of operating
and because of John Wesley’s dual religious doctrines of equality and
evangelism while Allen was still a slave. The voluntary separation of Black people from
the Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia led to a long court battle.
The new AME Church, however, maintained the Doctrine and Discipline of
the Methodist Episcopal Church. The history of Israel AME Church parallels
that of the National AME Church. People of African descent were attending
the Methodist Episcopal Church on State Street in Albany, NY when they were
asked to pay pew taxes. They left the Church and formed the Free African
Society that evolved into Israel AME Church.
Israel AME Church served as a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil
War. Harriet Tubman slept on the east wall of the basement. Several areas
in the church have labeled as hiding places for slaves. Abolitionists, including
Frederick Douglas visited Israel Church.
The present Church
was designed and built in 1854 by Reverend Thomas Jackson.
Israel AME Church of today is closely connected to its historical past
through its belief in God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit and translating
that belief into the brotherhood of mankind through community and church
services. Today, the goals and objectives of the programs at the Church are enriched
that historical background; and still based on the need for freedom of
expression, religion, the dignified treatment of human beings and the right
to own and operate a religious establishment.
Israel AME Church, has always been active in the community. The Albany
Chapter of the NAACP was founded at the Church. In 1989 the Church became a part of an urban
church cluster ministering to the inner city. These five churches (Emmanuel
Baptist, First Presbyterian, Israel AME, Trinity United Methodist, &
Westminster Presbyterian) comprise the FOCUS churches. These FOCUS churches
reach out to the homeless, the poor and the needy with food, lodging and